From the desert to the ocean, we chased one sunny adventure after another on our Spring Break.
We began our trip in the wee hours at the Oakland airport, where we were welcomed with a short security line, and a pleasant gift of Peet’s Coffee from a fellow mother who obviously recognized my valiant effort of traveling alone with young kids! Coincidentally, she was traveling with her grown daughter to San Diego to look at colleges.
Sidenote: I feel like this day will be here sooner than I want! Please time, slow down!
Shortly thereafter, and eager to get the party started, we boarded at Southwest Gate 23, where the pilots gave my girls 15-seconds of fame by inviting them to “fly” the plane. Let’s be honest, sitting in the cockpit when you’re under 8 years old is like winning the lottery.
But let’s back up a hot second to the gear we were carrying aboard.
Once you become a parent you realize your life will never be the same. Not only will you always have a little sidekick, but you will also be the proud owner of a bazillion pieces of, sometimes unnecessary, paraphernalia.
Especially when it comes to traveling.
I like to keep it minimal, especially since it’s only me that will be doing the heavy lifting, but traveling with kids requires some strategy and superfluous goods.
For Easter, the girls were gifted hatchimals, a cute bunny purse with a couple of dollars tucked inside, and a personalized Spring Break adventure journal. These items were not so neatly thrown into their backpacks (I’m realizing more and more how much it’s up to me to teach these children of mine to NEATLY put things where they belong!) along with the snacks they had picked out: epic bars, Thrive market jerky, Rx bars, larabars, olives, dried mango, cuties, and some foursigmatic elixirs (which were more for me!)
Charlie had a few books, and Sam had me for her entertainment. The iPad was charged and ready, if needed. However, I try not to rely on it and have them use their imagination before turning on screens.
Landing in Ontario, we grabbed our rental car (which wasn’t that simple, but I’ll save you from that debacle), downloaded The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett to listen to on audible, and off we went for the hour and a half drive to Joshua Tree.
Arriving hungry, we promptly bought some smoothies to cool down and fuel up for the rocky afternoon.
Stopping at The Natural Sisters Café, the girls decisively chose the Killer Bee smoothie (more for the fun name than the ingredients) and I, wanting some greens, picked the What the Kale smoothie. Both were delicious! Despite being surrounded by mile high, veggie packed plates of food other diners were enjoying, we drank our smoothies and selected somethng to munch on from the plethora of goodies out of our snack bag, such as the Manzanilla olives from Trader Joes.
I highly recommend this small pit stop to stock on snacks, or to sit down and enjoy the people watching.
The girls slurped and munched, while I wondered how the rest of the day was going to unfold. The older I get the more I try to practice the power of now - of being intentionally present - but sometimes that mama brain kicks in and various scenarios begin to unravel in my mind.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.
Our glamping trip to Yosemite last summer was simply bearable.
While I never regret getting out into nature, like most solo parenting, your limit of directing, disciplining, and sometimes simply talking, approaches sooner than typical.
Plan and simple, our trip to Yosemite needed two adults to make it work comfortably. We had glimpses of fun, but it was difficult with big emotions and four little legs that didn’t care to walk.
With this as my foundation to work with, I was a little nervous to venture out into the desert with creepy, crawly critters and only hard, dangerous surfaces to climb. This wasn’t your everyday Gymboree class folks!
But like most things, I nearly always opt to brave the adventure. One way or another we were going to have a good story to tell.
At the Joshua Tree visitor center on Park Boulevard, I introduced the girls to the animals and vegetation they were about to experience, grabbed our junior ranger guides, a few $1 bottles of water, and off we went.
Once we paid our $25 pass fee, all plans I had researched went out the window. After a morning of planes trains and automobiles, we jumped out at the first outcropping of rocks. I’ve never seen my girls so excited - they jumped out of the car, ran as fast as they could, and went for it.
Let’s be honest, no one needs instructions to boulder.
It’s only natural to start climbing and aim for the tippy top, as they did. Yet somehow I wasn’t prepared for that.
After all, they’re 4 and 6.
There’s two of them and one of me.
The rocks are not forgiving.
My joyous heart was so proud of them for enjoying themselves and being brave, but it was also in tension with the thought, “Oh shit, they could actually get really hurt up here!”
Thankfully their own defenses restrained them and they were cautious enough.
As beads of sweat culminated on our brow, we eagerly climbed, spotted many of lizards including a huge chuckwalla, pounded the water (note: bring more than you think you’ll need!), and pretended to be queens of the world when we were perched high, looking out above the surreal desert floor.
Sheer gratitude set in, and my heart was so happy! How long had it been since I had been on vacation with these two? Since we took time out of the everyday grind of work, school, laundry and go, go, go?
Simply too long.
It’s sad to say, but sometimes it takes vacations to recapture the wonder and beauty of your family!
Regardless, it was glorious.
Getting back to the plan though. I had only allotted two days in Joshua Tree, so off we continued to Skull Rock, to work our way backwards to the entrance.
At this point though, a certain 4-year old was hitting her witching hour.
“I need more water”
“It’s too hot”
“I have to pee.”
“I don’t want to do this.”
We tried to muster up enough excitement to explore Skull Rock: we crawled through caves, climbed to dead ends, and bumped this rock and that rock. But the hot afternoon sun wasn’t doing us any favors. We were running on fumes.
We returned to town to rest our weary heads for a millisecond before heading out for dinner. I found us a little Airbnb within 2 miles of the main strip of Joshua Tree that was just the right size for us. It didn’t have a kitchen but I figured we could go without for one night.
This meant a dinner date, and I had heard rave reviews for Pie for the People. At only 5:30, off we went.
First of all, I can’t remember the last time I had pizza, and second, who were we, eating a dinner so early?
Well, we weren’t the only ones. The line was already out the door when we arrived, which was a good sign.
And needless to say, their gluten free pizza rocked. As did the Greek salad, even though it didn’t have cucumbers! Next time I’ll order two pizzas and my own salad though. These girls can eat!
All attempts to convince the girls to watch the sunset in the park failed. C'mon, who was I going to tell if they stayed up past their bedtime? Yet as it usually does, the whining won and I succumbed and I took my party poopers home!
Thankfully National Park passes are good for 7 days, so we went back for a quick rendezvous the next morning, after a healthy and bountiful breakfast at Crossroads Café, another joint I highly recommend.
I’ve been known for tornado style road trips, and this was one of them. Our next destination: San Diego!
However, the three hour jaunt south only felt long the last hour in the car when I was ready to eat and move my legs. We owe it to our fine Taylor Swift sing-a-long for our mighty survival, albeit arriving hungry!
There’s no shortage of excellent eateries in San Diego, but we were hungry and as we edged closer to the San Diego city limits, everyone had different opinions as to what they wanted to eat. My mama superpowers hedged bets that Tender Greens would appease even the pickiest of eaters.
Off to La Jolla we went.
With full bellies we meandered around the mall and read some books at the amazon bookstore. Despite it being a bit overcast and most definitely cooler than Joshua Tree, my antsy legs and tired butt couldn’t keep myself or these girls in the car for much longer. We opted for a round of miniature golf.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, not realizing this would only be their second time playing. They HAD NO CLUE how to do it.
Remember what I said about having to teach your children EVERYTHING?
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Was this hilarious or absolutely the most painful hour of my life?
We may have lost two golf balls in the process, but we completed the course! Praise the Lord!
Seeing that we were staying with my stellar friend, Erin, whom I’ve known since 6th grade, we hit up Trader Joes for easy dinner fixings and a bottle of wine. While she may not appreciate her doorbell ringing when you come to town, her company, as well as her dog Captain, are top notch. If you opt for an Airbnb, with a kitchen, I recommend finding the closest Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to cook up a good meal like you would at home.
For us, dinner on the patio, with wine in hand, included spaghetti squash with a tomato meat sauce (sautéed ground beef smothered in your preferred sugar-free tomato sauce), and a side salad with easy toppings like artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes, and avocado.
Our hearts were happy, full, and tired!
The adventures didn’t stop there though! Isn’t Spring Break just the greatest!
Now Thursday, and more than pleased to take on the mothering role, I whipped up some scrambled eggs featuring some leftover tomato sauce, warmed up some water for coffee, and sent Erin on her way to work with a nice breakfast in her bag. Making sure Captain had done his business, we were on our way as well!
Gosh, I miss being a SAHM and making sure everyone is taken care of! But I digress…..
By now the girls were ready for their second breakfast and I wanted to see some architecture!
Did you know that I studied architecture, and my first job out of college was with Miller Hull? Yep!
Somehow I had forgotten about their work on Point Loma, so we went in that direction making a pit-stop at Liberty Public Market for snacks, which was sadly closed. Thankfully the beautiful Moniker is next door. We chose to grab a matcha (for me) and cinnamon almond milk steamers for the littles before continuing on, checking our adventures off of the list.
The Wharf at Point Loma. Check!
The San Diego Zoo - ALL DAY LONG! Check!
Sadly Friday was our last day there, and it came all too soon.
We said goodbye to Erin, and Captain, and meandered ever so slowly to Mission Beach to meet up with my cousins, who also happened to be vacationing in SD.
For the next couple of hours we basked in the glorious sunshine, caught up on life, attempted boogie boarding, dug for sand dollars, and of course snacked. Our snack game was still going strong! But so was my sunburn. Why is that I remember to apply sunscreen to my children but forget about my exposed, paler skin. Where’s my mom when I need her?
With the polar opposite weather up north in the Bay Area, where it was complete downpour and storms, we were fortunate to stay a couple of extra hours due to a delayed flight.
Out of the goodness of their heart or my super negotiating skills, we managed to keep our rental car without paying more. We took advantage and took in the sights, sounds, and smells of Balboa Park. If I lived here I think I’d wander through the park every day, there’s just something about it!
Yet even with a delayed flight, the minutes quickly passed and like that, our trip was coming to an end. Back to reality, and the very wet Bay Area we went. Spring Break 2018 was over.
We not only survived the very few meltdowns and new environments, we made some very special memories that I hope my girls treasure and recreate with their families someday.
Until next time San Diego….
It's not obvious but click the name of the place, snack item, or book below to find out more information.
Joshua Tree restaurants:
San Diego family friendly, healthy restaurants...and a place to get healthy:
CrossFit Invictus (my favorite gym!)
Thrive market jerky
Coloring paper and crayon or pencils
Books I brought but didn’t touch: